economicmultipliers_33

Economic Multipliers (33)  
 
Do you know what these are?
They help CREATE wealth in systems.
Kids books and educational materials are economic multipliers for both kids AND adults when their value is ‘maximized.’
 
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I have a ‘lazy mind.’  I don’t like to think ‘too much.'

That said, I sometimes borrow books through Interlibrary loan in areas that originally were outside my educational frame of reference.  Years ago, I used to think that I would ‘never get’ a LOT of stuff (particularly when reading books with partial differential equations).  Then it occurred to me that I was trying to understand (for me) the wrong things.

I started picking up ‘kids books’ at the same time I picked up the higher level materials.  It is amazing to me how much faster you can learn things if you do this.

Kids books normally provide simple frameworks but … of the MOST IMPORTANT ‘stuff.’  If you know the framework, it’s easier to not get ‘bogged down’ in the higher mathematics that you’ll never be asked to derive when you ‘apply’ the knowledge (although do not get me wrong … an understanding of the higher mathematics even if you can’t derive it changes how you can look at problems and makes it more likely that if there is some ‘new’ advance to be made, you’ll be able to ‘see it’ – and there are some things you should never touch if you do not understand the math and/or science first – you and everyone else will stay safer).

Now, I’m the kind of person who believes that for almost everyone in the world, it would be possible to learn anything if they had enough time (and interest).  Rational thinking maintains though, that if it would take a person 437 years to understand calculus or learn to play the violin well, perhaps that’s not the best use of their 90-year life.

Since I always believe it’s possible to ultimately ‘figure things out,’ I am less likely to be ‘deterred.’  If I don’t understand manuals or directions the first time, I reread them (sometimes several times) and/or look for better directions.  Sometimes I even write my own directions.

In the 1990’s, I wanted to learn the basics of setting up a web page.  I believed I had an advantage because I had already done some Fortran programming in college and in jobs.  I found an even greater advantage in a kids book that was probably less than 15 pages long (I wish I had kept the citation).  I found out that you could set up a web page by typing basic things into a text file and saving it with an .html extension:

¤¤¤– The basics of a web page –¤¤¤

<html>
<head></head>
<body>
<p></p>
</body>
</html>

¤¤¤– End of the basics of a web page –¤¤¤

To make this a bit more descriptive, I’ve added some text in areas you might normally find text.

¤¤¤– The basics of a web page with a bit of description –¤¤¤

<html>
<head>
This could be a title but you'd probably want to add some bolding, centering, increased text size and perhaps color.  Today, you'll find a lot of formatting for documents in this area.
</head>
<body>
<p>The body is where your document text will start to show up.  If this looks like coding for paragraphs, you're right.</p>
<p>A second paragraph might show up here.  If you want to indent or add pictures, bullets, or any special formatting tied to size, fonts, etc., information like that would be 'built into' coding that's added between 'less than' and 'greater than' signs.  The forward slashes denote 'closure' on commands.  That is why, when you reach the end of an HTML file, you'll find the '/html' command.</p>
</body>
</html>

¤¤¤– End of the basics of a web page with a bit of description –¤¤¤

A simple page is not ‘exciting.’  In the world of computers, it takes very little ‘space.’

Whenever I look at source code today for web pages, I automatically assume that I know the base framework and everything builds from there.  My mind first looks for the framework and then adds the ‘rest of the stuff’ in.  I’ve used this process as I’ve cut across a number of fields and for me, it’s just easier.

I never needed to do any ‘sophisticated’ Fortran programming in the work environment.  My greatest claim to fame was writing a stormwater routing program for a stormwater retention basin at Stapleton International Airport (an airport that was replaced by Denver International Airport).  Even then, when I recognized the ‘scope’ of the project, I went home for lunch, grabbed some computer code I had written in college for a similar ‘class assignment’ and grabbed some leftover (also from college) statistical graph paper for plotting probabilities tied to storm events.  I only needed to modify about 30 percent of the code.  Local precipitation data and some rough estimates of ‘timing’ of runoff provided a base for sizing the basin.  This basin was not designed to prevent flooding downstream (although in a large storm, it would have helped):  It was designed to give biodegradable ‘deicing’ solution in runoff a chance to ‘dilute’ and break down before the stormwater was released to a local stream.

The data files would have been large but the code I wrote was most likely less than 150 lines long (now where did I put that 5¼” floppy drive?!).  Today, companies use prewritten code that is sometimes thousands and millions of lines long.  In all of it, I guarantee that there is a fairly simple framework.  The extra lines of code make the user’s experience enjoyable and if the program is designed for solving problems, it allows the user to focus on the problem itself instead of how to tell the computer what it should do to help solve the problem.  (See P.S.)

Whatever you work on, whether it’s computers or science or engineering or manufacturing or, or, or … if you’re lucky enough to find the framework for it in some kids book, every other part of it will seem a LOT easier.  If you’re reading this and you’re still a kid, look at your books and think:  I’m getting some of the best ‘stuff’ now … BUT I may not really appreciate it until I’m an adult.

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P.S.  I once asked someone (in an area where I was not an ‘expert’ but was responsible for the numbers that were put in a final report) whether they believed the computer modeling results.  Technology is only powerful IF, when you type 2+3= into a machine and get the answer 6, you know that the answer is wrong.

But, interestingly enough, the importance of the ‘accuracy’ of the answer depends upon the field.

If you took $2.00 out of the bank on one day and $3.00 out of the bank the next (and there were no fees) and your account went down $6.00, the answer would be ‘very wrong.'

Because this was an air pollution and dispersion ‘problem,’ 2+3=6 would have been a REALLY GOOD answer at the time.  For these types of problems, coming within an order of magnitude was many times considered ‘VERY good.’  The consistency (in the absence of complete understanding) was in using a ‘standard’ model and consistent sampling techniques across sites as ‘field data’ was collected over the years so systems could be better understood.

Models almost always contain assumptions … both by the programmer and the user.  On the day that you’re an ‘expert,’ you have a range that you’d expect your answer to be in AND ‘field data’ collected over the years provide ‘support’ for that range.  When the computer says one thing and you believe another, you believe it’s important enough to find out why.